t One million manufacturing workers needed, but employers face recruitment ‘crunch’ over quality and quantity of graduates - Plant & Works Engineering

One million manufacturing workers needed, but employers face recruitment ‘crunch’ over quality and quantity of graduates

Published:  30 April, 2014

Britain’s manufacturers are facing a recruitment ‘crunch’ with the quality and quantity of graduates failing to match up to industry needs, according to a new report– Improving the Quality and Quantity of Graduate-level Skills - by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation.

By 2020 manufacturers will need almost a million replacement workers. However, this demand comes at a time when skills from within the UK are already in short supply, while companies face ever-increasing difficulties in recruiting from outside of Europe.

In the next three years alone, 66% of manufacturers plan to recruit an engineering graduate. Over a quarter of firms (27%) will also be on the recruitment trail for those with business and administration degrees, while 20% will be taking on people with a technology degree.

However, their plans could be holed by the limited number of STEM students coupled with the number of graduates lacking industry experience and manufacturing knowledge. As a result, eight in ten manufacturers (80%) want to see higher education establishments prioritise improving the employability of students, while 79% want courses to be designed to meet industry needs. Importantly, almost three quarters (74%) want to see universities build stronger relationships with employers - crucial if students are to gain valuable work experience and therefore the skills and knowledge which employers say are currently lacking.

Over six in ten manufacturers (63%) think that increasing the number of placements and internship opportunities at universities will increase the number of STEM students. In addition, many see European graduates as being more ‘rounded’ and ‘ready for the world of work’ having spent more time in industry than their UK peers. This makes EU graduates attractive to skills-hungry employers in the UK – over a third (35%) have recruited from this pool in the last three years.

But when it comes to casting their net wider and looking at the pool of graduates outside of Europe, manufacturers find themselves hitting further barriers. Over half (53%) have found the process of sponsoring an overseas (non-EU) student to be very time-consuming, while others have had difficulties obtaining visas (44%) and sponsorship licences (41%). Worryingly, just 29% found the entire process easy.

Manufacturers are taking action by boosting their investment in higher-level skills. Four in ten are offering placements (39%) and internships (40%) to undergraduates, while almost a quarter (23%) are sponsoring students through university. They are also offering Higher Apprenticeships (26%) and supporting existing employees through university (56%).

However, they face significant hurdles in these activities and are calling on the Government to put the right building blocks in place so that higher education and industry are able to work more closely together to boost the quality and quantity of the future workforce.

Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF, says: “With UK manufacturing continuing to expand and grow, access to the right skills in the right numbers is ever more important. Businesses are engaging with universities, sponsoring students and hiring graduates, but we need action now if we are to meet expected demand. Decisive steps must be taken if we do not want to see the manufacturing sector increasingly looking outside the UK for talent for fear of otherwise running out of steam.

“Boosting the pool of talented, skilled and employable young people in the UK is a win-win for the young people themselves, for manufacturers and the wider economy. Manufacturers are investing in skills for the future, but are hitting hurdles. This is why the Government must put the right building blocks in place.

“It is vital to ensure that there is greater collaboration between employers and educators, that universities have sufficient STEM funding and that all STEM students undertake work experience in industry. Not only would this significantly improve the quality and quantity of graduates, but it would send out a clear message that gaining these much-needed and valuable skills is the way forward.”

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